Making Measurable, Meaningful Change

André Guillemin puts a lifetime of experience into his MSW

It was a long journey, but André Guillemin (SSW’20) found his calling. “I spent a long time searching for a career that has intrinsic value and gives me a sense of purpose in life,” explains Guillemin, who enrolled in BUSSW’s MSW program at age 45. “The wait was necessary because I didn’t have the life experience or depth of perspective to do this work 20 years ago.”

Now a part-time student in the online program, he’s able to synthesize knowledge gained from professional experiences that range from cognitive research to nonprofits, and an MBA program to corporate consulting. The cumulative effect was the development of “a broad foundation of experience that provides insight into my clients’ lives and struggles, and guides their treatment.”

Guillemin lives in Greater Boston but chose to enroll in the online MSW program. Older than the traditional student with a family to boot, “I have to continue to work while in school,” he notes. “The online program provides the flexibility I need to make it all work. Combine that with the opportunity for local placements and BU’s great reputation, and BUSSW was a natural choice.”

Although he is completing his studies remotely, Guillemin says he’s thoroughly enjoying the immersive nature of the program. His first field placement was at the Pine Street Inn, which provides permanent housing, social services, and job training to Boston’s homeless. There, he provided clinical services to tenants, many of whom had dual diagnoses that included serious mental illness, substance use disorder, and chronic physical conditions.

“It was an amazing, grounding, and humbling experience,” he says. While working one-on-one with the residents, Guillemin learned about his clients’ quality of life. “Most of the folks I worked with indicated in various ways that they were lonely. They simply didn’t have the opportunity to interact socially with their neighbors.”

A recipient of a field education stipend supported by Kate Buttenwieser (SSW’63), Guillemin chose to pay it forward. “I took a small amount of the stipend and bought board games, decks of cards, and books. Then I hosted a couple of game nights for the residents.” Afterwards, Guillemin left the games for them to use in the common room. “Hopefully, they will use the games as an excuse to connect with each other—and maybe a few will end up feeling a bit less lonely.”

At his current placement with the Walker School in Needham, Massachusetts, Guillemin provides in-home therapy and outpatient counseling services to children, adults, and families. No matter where he lands, Guillemin says his underlying goal will be the same: “to provide clients with a holistic understanding of the neurophysiological, emotional, and sociocultural aspects of their mental health, so they can achieve measurable and meaningful change in their lives.”

By Maura King Scully | Impact Magazine, Winter/Spring 2020